Travel Epiphanies and Night Ferries

“Just one drink,” I say, as I’m looking at myself in the mirror of my tiny cabin on board an overnight ferry. My face is sunburned and my hair is frizzed, I had just spent three very hot and exhilarating days in London. I expected to fall deeply in love with London, for reasons I couldn’t really explain, and London certainly delivered any preconceived expectations and then some. My final day in London consisted of riding the tube to Camden, browsing all the open air markets, and then finally settling down on a grassy hill in Greenwich Park with a bottle of wine and friends. My new friends. People whom I’ve met about a week before in Dublin.

After spending a few hours lying on the grass, talking, drinking, observing, and laughing, we force ourselves out of London and onto a ferry bound to the Netherlands, where we will continue our adventure together in Amsterdam. I’m tired, and already feeling a little boozy from my wine. While already declaring that it will be a quiet night on board, I make no effort in my appearance, and I sheepishly leave my room in a t-shirt and yoga pants, wearing no makeup. I see some familiar faces, and we convene by the bar in the lounge. Someone remarks that the bar drinks are overpriced, and it makes more sense to buy bottles of liquor from the duty free shop on board. I shrug and buy myself a glass of wine, as I don’t expect to hang out for very long before returning to my cabin.

As we were one of the first passengers to arrive, the deck is completely empty. The chairs and tiny tables are strategically attached to the deck with wire, but we figure out how to arrange a little sitting area for all of us. Slowly, my travel mates find their way to the deck and we begin to chat about what we all did in London. Soon, everyone becomes generous with their bottles, and paper cups filled with nothing but alcohol are passed around. I can’t tell if it’s from drinking or being on open waters, but I start to feel dizzy. As I sit around and look at my little group, I am taken over with pure happiness and amazement at how well we are all getting along, despite being strangers just days prior. Somewhere along the line, I relent and buy myself my own duty free bottle and have been taking swigs out of it for who knows how long? How long have we been out here? What time is it? Don’t we have to be up pretty early tomorrow? Who cares? It’s a vacation, dammit, and I’m enjoying every second out here on this boat deck. Tomorrow morning can wait.

After a while, I worry if we are being too loud and disturbing the other passengers. I turn my attention away from my crowd, only to see that we have become the center of a ring of other passengers, who have been happily watching our antics for god knows how long. Instead of the scowls I expect, I only see people drinking and smoking while shaking their heads and laughing at my crew. A few eventually decide to come join us. An employee makes his way on deck, but instead of telling us to quiet down and go back to our rooms, he exchanges smiles with us and asks if he can take any garbage or empty glasses.

The night carries on, people keep coming and going to the duty free shop to replenish, regrettable photos are snapped on smartphones, and I sit there thinking how I’m so glad I decided to come out for “just one drink”, instead of curling up on my cot and catching up with my friends and family on Facebook. Somewhere, on that ferry, mid-transit between London and Amsterdam, I fell in love with everyone I was traveling with. I felt so lucky that somehow, by fate, we all unknowingly decided to travel together. We crossed the boundary of simply being companions while abroad, and were now, undoubtedly, friends. No more awkward icebreaker conversations, we were instead freely conversing and divulging; without worry of any judgment from someone you don’t quite know yet.

It was that night when I had my first “travel epiphany”, where the profoundness and magic of travel really came flying at me and hit me in the face. It wasn’t when I saw Big Ben and the London Tower for the first time in person, nor was it when I had my first pint of Guinness at Temple Bar in Dublin, as wonderful as those moments were. No, it was there, on the deck of that ferry, sitting in a metal chair, resting my elbows on a table littered with paper cups, empty bottles, and ashtrays, that it really hit me that I was in the midst of something truly special that will stay with me forever.

I got up from my chair to stretch my legs, to prepare myself for what was already making itself into a very long night, when I looked over the railing and noticed that we hadn’t even left port yet.


Lamenting Lindy

It’s been eight months since Lindy Ruff coached the Buffalo Sabres. A considerable stretch of time, but to say that I’m completely over his firing would simply not be true. A lot has happened since he’s been fired; the Sabres, again, missed the playoffs, the NHL carried on, with trades and transactions, and new rules were implemented. Fans went about their lives, watching hockey, watching the playoffs, and enjoying the summer offseason.

To say I’m an avid Sabres fan would be an understatement. I was the type of fan who would plan my social life around hockey season. I’d always be down for hanging with my friends, as long as it meant after a game. Of course there would be times when I’d miss a game to go out and do something else, but checking my phone for score updates was a must. I even made sure to book my trip to Europe this past summer until July, making sure that I wouldn’t miss the playoffs. Going to games were special events, included with my ritual of arriving at least an hour early so I could watch the pre-game warmups and snap pictures of my favorite team.

But now, for the first time I can remember, I don’t plan my social life around the games. Hell, there have been a few times where I’ve completely forgotten the Sabres were even on. I’ve never been so blasé about the Sabres. My younger brother and I have regularly attended Sabres games for the past several years, and a few days ago, he mentioned he got tickets to Monday’s game against the Dallas Stars. And for the first time since, oh I don’t know, forever, I am very hesitant in attending. And it has nothing to do with the fact that the Sabres are playing absolutely dismal hockey, and are completely unenjoyable to watch. It’s because I really don’t know if I can handle seeing Lindy Ruff coaching behind the opposing team’s bench.

No matter how ridiculous it sounds in the world of sports, deep down I always wanted to believe that Lindy would stay with the Sabres until he retired. Even when the logic no longer made sense, and there were no more arguments to be made as to why we should retain the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, I still couldn’t get behind firing Lindy.

At 23 years old, Lindy is the only coach I can really remember coaching the Sabres. I was seven when he was hired, and that’s around the age when I really started becoming a Sabres fan. As a child, I remember going to the games with my family, playing roller hockey in the streets with my brothers, going to Sabres carnivals at the arena and getting the players’ autographs, and staying up really, really late one night in June to watch Brett Hull cheat his way to a Stanley Cup and breaking thousands of Buffalonians’ hearts in the process. And Lindy was there for all of it. He was there to roll up his sleeves and go toe-to-toe to the then-coach of the Ottawa Senators, telling him “don’t go after our fucking captain.”

As the head coach, Lindy is the leader of the pack. The guy that everyone looks to. And as a fan, I felt the same. I’ve had my fair share of favorite players, and I’ve watched them come and go, but Lindy was always there. Always there standing behind the bench, arms crossed with a stern face.

Like an embodiment of the city of Buffalo, Lindy was a hardworking, tough hockey player. He’s a man who can be terrifying, yet also incredibly charming. Lindy’s a guy who can seamlessly crack a joke with a twinkle in his eye, or make a sarcastic remark, just before turning on a reporter who crossed the line with a question and becoming ornery, revealing the short-tempered side to him. And I loved him for it.

Change is constant in the world of professional sports. The shelf life of a player’s career is not incredibly long, and with millions and millions of dollars on the line, the shuffling of a roster and the replacement of the coaching staff is natural. Call me a sucker, but I truly loved how the Sabres seemed to be incredibly loyal to their guys. The philosophy of growing from within and sticking with your players was something special to me. Lindy being the second-longest tenured coach in all of professional sports in North America was something I was so proud of. Rick Jeanneret, the legendary sports broadcaster, has been with the team since its inception in 1970. My spirits soared when Ryan Miller announced his contract extension in 2008, stating that he wanted to remain with an organization that drafted him and he wanted to win a championship with a group of guys he came up the ranks with. These were all things that made me feel proud to be a Sabres fan.

To me, Lindy’s firing back in February signaled the beginning of the end to a lot of things that I hold special when it comes to the Sabres. Rick Jeanneret has announced his retirement for 2016. Ryan Miller is 33-years-old, and on the last year of his contract with the Sabres. The odds of him wanting to wait another several years as the team rebuilds itself into Stanley Cup contenders again are pretty slim to none.

Replace “Azkaban” with “Buffalo”, and this basically sums up Ryan Miller’s career so far.

For the past several years, I found myself desiring the Sabres would win a Cup based around all these guys. I wanted Lindy to have the glory of coaching a Buffalo-based team to a championship. I wanted to hear Rick Jeanneret go berserk as the seconds dwindled down while the Sabres were preemptively ripping off their equipment on the ice to celebrate a Cup victory. I wanted to see a straggly-bearded Ryan Miller skate around the ice while triumphantly lifting the Cup over his head.

While it was not surprising, Lindy’s firing devastated me because it meant it was time to come to terms with the fact that everything I romanticized and fantasized about the Sabres might not come to be. Things will always change…new players, new coaches, new management. These are all things that any sports franchise has seen and will continue to see. This isn’t news to the many Sabres fans who have watched the team since the 70s. But to this 23-year-old fan, Lindy was the only constant to my beloved team, and it’s only now that I realize how my love for Lindy and my love for the franchise itself had been so intertwined.

So as I file into the arena (an arena whose name has changed three times since 1996) on Monday, adhering to all my little pre-game rituals I set in place years prior, I’ll be mentally preparing myself not for Lindy’s homecoming back to Buffalo, but for officially saying goodbye to Lindy and letting go of something that first ignited my passion and love for the game of hockey.

(Photo by Karl B DeBlaker via AP)

Halloween Double Features

Ah, October. One of my favorite months. The air gets a little more crisp, the leaves turn beautiful colors, and it’s finally time to start preparing for one of the best holidays ever…Halloween! Halloween is so much fun for so many reasons; whether it’s embracing the dark mysteries of the afterlife, or dressing up in costumes and pulling pranks and getting candy, it’s a holiday that can be celebrated by all ages in very different ways. When you’re younger, it’s all about getting decked out in a fun or scary costumes and collecting all the candy your pillowcase can hold. When you’re older, it’s more focused around alcohol…which seems to be a recurring theme with adulthood.


But no matter if you’ve grown out of trick-or-treating and are now more concerned where the best and booziest Halloween party is going to be, other Halloween traditions will never go out of style. Going to haunted houses, carving pumpkins, and of course, watching scary movies. These are all essentials to celebrating Halloween, and I don’t see myself refraining from partaking in these festivities anytime soon.


The horror genre has always had a special place in my heart. I’m more of a fan of the older, more established horror movies, but I’m always on the lookout for new movies that are bound to become classics in due time. I love compiling a list of movies to watch around this time of year… There’s nothing better than curling up on the couch on a cold, rainy October night with hot cider and whiskey while watching some good horror movies. Below is a list of double features to watch on the nights leading up to Halloween.




These two movies are staples when it comes to watching movies on Halloween. With a masked boogeyman terrorizing neighborhood teenagers, John Carptener’s Halloween set the tone for modern classic horror, and Scream pays homage to this formula. Both movies are great fun to watch.



Psycho/The Shining


Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick are two of my favorite directors because of their extreme care and attention to detail in each and every scene. Hitchcock’s Psycho is known to have validated horror to be taken seriously as a film genre, and it’s not hard to understand why after watching it. Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the greatest and scariest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s one of the only movies that truly instilled fear in me (and still does) when I first watched it.


I think these two films are great to watch as a double feature because they both take place in a lodging of some sort (Bates Motel in Psycho and the Overlook Hotel in The Shining), and the main characters lose their mind due to extreme isolation and are haunted by ghosts; Norman Bates is haunted by his mother and Jack Torrance is haunted by the ghosts of the Overlook. Both movies also feature some of the most classic and infamous scenes in cinematic history, with Pyscho‘s shower scene and The Shining’s “Here’s Johnny!” scene. Although, I think the twins scene will always be one of the scariest scenes in all of movie history…



The Texas Chainsaw Massacre/The Silence of the Lambs


One is a slasher film, while the other is a psychological thriller, but both feature diabolical cannibals who have a penchant for wearing human skin. Leatherface is the main terror in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but The Silence of the Lambs features both Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lecter. All three characters have left a legacy in movie history. Both movies feature a number of disturbing, gory scenes, but I think Hannibal Lecter’s escape scene is the best.


 An American Werewolf in London/Shaun of the Dead


Two great movies that take place in London. Both movies do a fantastic job at combining scares, violence, wit, and humor to make enjoyable movies to watch around this time of year. An American Werewolf in London has its classic transformation scene, however I’m more partial to this perfect scene in Shaun of the Dead as being branded an instant classic…


Rosemary’s Baby/Carrie


Two equally creepy movies that both feature a mother who bore children with demonic qualities. Rosemary is pregnant with the spawn of Satan, whereas Carrie develops her telekinetic powers after years of being taunted and bullied by her Christian fundamentalist mother and mean classmates.



 House on Haunted Hill/Night of the Living Dead 


I don’t think it’s officially Halloween season until you’ve watched a Vincent Price movie! House on Haunted Hill is undoubtedly a classic, despite if its thrills and special effects are extremely outdated. But campiness and familiar scares is part of what makes Halloween an enjoyable holiday to so many well after childhood.


Then there’s another black and white classic, Night of the Living Dead…the starter of all zombie flicks. I think the zombie flesh eating scenes still hold up to today’s standards in grossness, and it still has one of the most surprising and disturbing endings even after all these years. Do yourself a favor and watch it if you haven’t yet seen it…


Beetlejuice/Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban



Even if you’re a big fan of truly scary and creepy movies like I am, you’ve gotta throw in family-friendly, fun movies around this time of year. Both movies are classics! Beetlejuice exemplifies Tim Burton’s ability to seamlessly combine creepiness with his twisted humor, making Beetlejuice a good movie to watch at all ages.


I don’t think I need to go too in depth as to the fame of the Harry Potter franchise. I chose Prisoner of Azkaban over the other movies because I think the movie is wonderfully whimsical and pretty dark; the terrifying Dementors are introduced and a werewolf is also featured! I think this is one of my favorite Harry Potter movies out of the eight adaptations, and that largely has to do with Alfonso Cuarón’s direction and John Williams’s score.